Monday, November 03, 2008

How should a Christian vote in this election?

This Sunday, our baby Boo had his christening.

Our Reverend's first question when we sat down to discuss the baptism with her was: "Why do you want your son baptised?"

Apparently, the most common answer is: "We don't want him to go to Hell/Purgatory with all the other unbaptized children."

Our answer was simple and pedestrian: We wanted him to be raised with some kind of spirituality, so when he's old enough to make the decision about whether to remain a Christian (like his mum) or become a disbelieving, cynical heathen (like his dad) at least he's had the opportunity to make an informed decision.

I don't believe in God, but that's my decision - not his.

That's very important. Part of the 'problem' with Christianity in America is a whole slew of parents (not all of them, mind you - just some) brainwashing their kids.

A child who is brainwashed into being a Christian, à la that movie 'Jesus Camp,' isn't really a Christian. Part of being a real Christian is actually choosing that path for yourself when you're old enough (and unpressured enough.)

But the years I spent at a theological university (even if I was studying history) weren't entirely wasted and I found much of the discussion we had about the words from the Book of Common Prayer to be fascinating.

During the baptism, we're asked to answer a series of questions on behalf of our son - questions that represent the core beliefs of modern-day Christians. Our son is choosing to become a Christian, and from a practical point of view, these questions give guidance about what that means.

During the crazy election fever, many Christians are trying to consolidate the party they want to vote for with their spiritual beliefs. This really demands they ask themselves: "What are my core spiritual values?"

"What makes me a Christian?"

Yesterday, I was reminded that being a Christian isn't about the redistribution of wealth, or whether a pitbull wears lipstick.

During a baptism, you get asked to follow the most important values of Christianity - and I think a lot of modern so-called Christians have totally lost sight of what those are:

These are onwards from page 300 of your Book of Common Prayer, if you want to read along at home:
  • Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Aside from the odd fiddle-player down in Georgia, nobody meets Satan or his demons in the flesh any more.

But Satan doesn't stand for 'evil,' so much as stubbornness and arrogance. Satan refused to submit himself appropriately to the Lord's will (remember, God grants 'free will,' yet punishes those who actually exercise that freedom.)

Renouncing Satan and his spiritual forces means renouncing pride and arrogance, which poison a good Christian's meek, humble service of God.

America is currently full of people who've forgotten this concept.

If I believed in something like Satan, I'd think he would be in hog heaven right now. He's had a President and a Prime Minister arrogantly equate their belief in God to their actions in Iraq.

He's got millions of Americans stuffed full of pride and arrogance, believing that they're spreading 'God's' message at home and abroad, when, in fact, they're spreading their own.
  • Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
This question is a very important one, because it addresses the real, physical, manifestations of evil on the earth - the actions of people and businesses that directly stand against what a Christian believes in.

This could be unethical business practices, like those Wal-Mart get involved in. It could be the evil practices of a political entity, deliberately misleading a country in order to justify a war (and both bearing false witness and going unnecessarily to war are grave sins.)

Issues like abortion fit here - and before any readers click their fingers and announce: "Ah ha, this means I must vote Republican!" think about how all the parties approach issues of an 'evil' like abortion.

I've often said that the right wing has become so proud and arrogant fighting against practical attempts to reduce abortions (like advocating non-explicit sex education) that the pro-life movement has become more about politics than actually eliminating the demand for abortions. Abortion is just an excuse to push an agenda.

There are other 'unGodly' practices that many so-called Christians put up with because they are convenient, profitable or just the status-quo (which all Conservatives, by their very definition, fight to maintain.)
  • Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
This is another very important, relevant question for modern Christians to consider.

Our Reverend gave practical examples of sinful desires that draw a person away from God. Things like addiction to drugs or alcohol [I notice you put didn't put down your glass of Sauvignon Blanc when you wrote that, Roland - Editorial Bear] but it made me immediately think of some people I've been spending time with lately who spend their entire time judging other people.

You are a bad friend/sibling/parent because you do this. You should do this. I will only accept you if you change this about yourself.

Jesus was pretty damn explicit about this kind of behavior, yet from my experience, so-called Christians remain the most judgemental souls on this wretched planet.
  • Do you put your whole trust in [Jesus Christ's] grace and love?
When I read this, it made me think of something I learned in university - you should put your whole trust in Jesus to look after and protect you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look both ways before crossing the street!

Likewise, why is it that Christians are amongst the most outspoken about issues like Global Warming? Jesus helps those who help themselves, so maybe by providing us with decades of empirical evidence to support the warming of the Earth, our friend JC is just pointing out that we should get off our collective asses and do something about it, instead of blithely burying our heads in the sand.
  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

This is the most troubling of all the questions we were to be asked. Why? Because I honestly don't believe the Christian right-wing continue to do this. Our Reverend gave us an excellent example - somebody who goes to prison and becomes a Christian there.

Thing about being a Christian isn't just having a baptism - getting a stamp on your hand that read "Heaven: Accept One." It's about believing in Jesus and his message. As long as you do that, earnestly from your heart, the Bible is absolutely explicit that you will enter heaven.

So that means child killers and rapists and murders are just as eligible for heaven as anybody else - and it's up to Christians to recognize and accept that fact. That's why the Christian right promoting capital punishment, for example, is so troubling. They might yell "those killers will burn in hell!" but, if you believe in the Bible, they won't. They'll be right there in heaven with them.

If you are open to recognizing Christ in all people, you should be absolutely against ending another human life, however wretched and undeserving it may be.

  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

It was this question that made me think, looking at the big picture, that a true Christian should probably vote Democrat in this election, rather than Republican.

Because the Republican party, in my mind, does not currently strive for justice or peace.

Peace? Well, they started a war on false grounds in a foreign country. Politically, strategically and economically it might have made sense - but it was an unprovoked war, unrelated to the War on Terror, that cost the lives of thousands of American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians (remember, we should be 'recognizing Christ' in all people, not allowing them to become 'collateral damage' just because they're Muslims.)

Justice? What a farce. The Patriot Act trampled on American's constitutional rights. Guantanamo Bay crushed the rights our Declaration of Independence says are 'inalienable.' Bush's tax policies redistributed as much wealth as Obama seeks to (just in the wrong direction.)

The Republican Party needs a four or eight year break so they can look themselves in the eye and figure out just what justice really is.

And, finally, there's the most important part of that question - how a good Christian should 'respect the dignity of every human being.'

The human beings who need that dignity the most are the ones who have it the least. People on the bottom rung of society. The ones who can't afford or aren't eligible for health care, who can't get a job, or live on the streets.

The Republican party is against helping those who lack the resources to help themselves. To quote brilliant, but (in my mind) occasionally misguided politico The Other Sarah, "It is not the job of the government to give handouts and to reward people for being poor. Welfare, in all it’s forms, should be abolished."

No. Welfare shouldn't be abolished. It should just be restructured in order to give people a leg-up towards supporting themselves. Having the dignity of making their own way, instead of surviving on handouts that the Republicans try to abolish.

This is why I believe the reforms Obama is suggesting, which some people incorrectly think are 'socialism,' wind up being far more 'Christian' in nature than those of the Republicans.

Sometimes, it seems like the Republican policy is: "Screw everybody else, it's every man for himself here." And that might be very American and that might be kind of pragmatic, but it sure as hell isn't very Christian.

Let's hope the millions of so-called Christians who helped vote George Bush* into office - twice - take the time to reexamine their beliefs before tomorrow. If they're truly voting for a more Christian America, than they're making a huge mistake supporting John McCain.

* And just for the record, in 2004, when I saw still achristian (although not a very good one) I fully supported George Bush, as I found John Kerry's campaign to be based around the single misnomer: "Vote for me, I'm NOT Bush."


Anonymous said...

George Bernard Shaw wrote:-
"The trouble with Christianity is that it has never been tried"

Roland Hulme said...


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